Query Critique 25

A picture book query to critique! Hooray! I’ve been hoping somebody would submit one of these.

I found your profile in Publisher’s Marketplace and noticed you were interested in exhilarating, potential series picture books. I thought my Azalea’s Mysterious Key would suit you.
Azalea’s Mysterious Key is a children‘s book that combines fantasy and adventure all within 830 words. This is a little on the long side for a picture book. This picture book is plot driven, but also utilizes the opportunity to educate and stimulate young minds, ranging from the ages of six to eight. The word count and target ages are good, but the rest of this I could do without. Let the synopsis speak for itself.
When Azalea finds a key in her backyard, she looks for the assistance of her friends Taylor, Tyler, Be careful when you have two names that are very similar to each other and Max to figure out what it unlocks. Working together, the group is able to conclude it fits a door of an Oak lowercase tree located in the middle of Azalea’s backyard. Azalea, Max, and the Twins never want to depart from their new found discovery. But where does it lead? A magical treehouse? A secret fantasy land?
Azalea’s Mysterious Key can be followed up with another picture book, Azalea’s Adventure. At this point, everyone has had enough fun. Again, this leaves me wondering where exactly they went in the first book. Unexpectedly, the key gets stolen. I don’t think you need to say unexpectedly. People typically don’t expect their stuff to be stolen. Using problem-solving skills the gang must retrieve the key with the aid of a few inhabitants.  You can maybe get away with this if the agent or editor specifically asked for a series, but usually it’s best to focus on selling one book at a time.You’ve already established that it’s a series, which is great if I like the first book. Spend the rest of the query making me want that book… and all the others that follow.
Azalea’s Mysterious Key can be followed up with another picture book, Azalea’s Adventure. At this point, everyone has had enough fun. Unexpectedly, the key gets stolen. Using problem-solving skills the gang must retrieve the key with the aid of a few inhabitants. Um, not sure why this is here again, but I’m guessing it’s unintentional.
The possible Azalea series would really fit in the market of six to eight year olds. This has already been stated. At this stage of life one is able to think through actions and understand causes of events. The idea of working together and continuing to try is tough for a youth of this age to grasp. Seeing, the main characters accepting failure and continuously trying will reiterate these two important concepts to readers. I like to keep the focus more on the story than what the child will learn.
In addition to the picture book, a glossary can be included in the back. There are a handful of “advanced” words within each book that can easily be interpreted through the use of context clues. Readers will be able to expand vocabulary while using critical thinking skills. I feel like a glossary would be sort of hit or miss. Some might like it, others might hate it. I’m a little on the fence.
I’ve worked extensively with young, school aged children and have seen them yearn for more thought- provoking manuscripts, which are also challenging.
Thank you for your consideration, this is a nonexclusive submission. I look forward to hearing from you!

Unlocked Awesomeness

The query is a little on the long side, though part of that may be due to the repeated paragraph.


Organizing Your Agent Hunt

If you write YA, and I know a lot of you do, I highly recommend following the YA WordNerds channel on YouTube. They are an incredibly talented group of people with some great insights. They’re also super nice and friendly. One time they were nice enough to let me vlog for them.

Today I’m linking you to a video of their’s that I think is of particular interest. It’s all about researching and organizing your agent hunt.

I actually have my own spreadsheet, and I’ve found it incredibly helpful to have one place I can go to where I can compare all the different agents I’m considering. Because as it turns out there are a lot of agents out there. I’m particularly fond of having a spreadsheet column devoted to things I like about the agent and a column devoted to things I don’t like.

Like Meghan says, once you’ve been in the query trenches long enough, things get confusing and you’ll be happy to have some organization.

The Hook

I think every query letter needs a one or two sentence hook. And I personally like them at the beginning.

Of course this is somewhat a matter of personal preference. Some agents may ask for other information at the beginning, in which case you should follow their directions.

But I like it at the beginning. And I have at least one other intern who’s said she also likes it at the beginning. So you know. That’s two of us. Which is more than just me.

Here’s why. The hook should be the thing that makes me care about the book, and you want me to care from the very beginning. Not like other elements of your query won’t make me care about the book, because they should. But the hook should do it best and fastest.

There are a lot of different ways to go about writing a hook. But the best hooks have two elements: something that tells me what makes the book unique, and something that hints at the voice of the book.

But bottom line, any hook that makes me want to keep reading is a good hook.

See my follow up post with examples of great hooks here.

Query Critique 24

The author of this query mentioned that she would love any additional comments readers have, so feel free to leave some in the comments!

Dear Ms. (Agent name):

In RATMAN’S REVENGE, my middle grade urban fantasy with a paranormal twist, Maybe it’s just me, but I think all fantasy has a paranormal twist. eleven-year-old Cody searches for the missing people in an underground city and finds a giant rat with paranormal powers. What sort of paranormal powers? Now Cody’s got some exterminating to do.

Cody is fed up with feeling left-out by his too-busy-to-care divorced parents. Just a heads up, I see a lot of too-busy divorced parents. When he ventures into the woods for the first time, he discovers a tunnel leading to a city hidden underground with crystal caves, slugs-and-bugs soup, and new friends with awesome abilities like reading minds and seeing visions.

Best. Home. EVER. This line has good voice.

But Cody’s adventures take a pants-wetting turn when the Detectors, the people who protect the city, start disappearing. Without their warnings, the city could get I’d say be instead of get blind-sided by earthquakes, floods, or invasions by deadly beasts. The city’s leaders use their psychic abilities and discover someone is controlling the minds of the Detectors, but the leaders have no idea who or why.

Cody isn’t about to let his new home come crashing down around him, but every time he tries to help, a mutant, man-sized rat attacks him. Ratman roasts Cody with a hot crystal, pushes him down the Devil’s Mouth hole, and tries to drown him in the river. This last bit is a little confusing, since it references things I don’t really know about.

But Cody can’t stop. His clues point to Ratman as the one controlling the Detectors. And since Cody is the only one who sees the giant rat, no one else believes the freaky fur-face even exists. I’d maybe mention sooner that only cody can see him. It’s up to Cody to save the Detectors and the city from whatever this whiskered weirdo is plotting before Ratman’s next attack actually kills him.

RATMAN’S REVENGE is complete at 76,000 words and may appeal to readers of Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven and Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember. Good comparison titles. I am enclosing the first fifty pages as an attachment per your guidelines.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Underground Author

Meet My Villain Blog Hop/ Contest

Welcome to the Meet My Villain blog hop and contest (yes, both at once). Are you excited? I’m excited.

“The villains were always ugly in books and movies. Necessarily so, it seemed. Because if they were attractive—if their looks matched their charm and their cunning—they wouldn’t only be dangerous.

They would be irresistible.”        

-Nenia Campbell


Photo courtesy of Sean Mundy via Flickr. He has some amazing photography, and you should totally check him out.

1) What is the name of your villain?

King Emery of Tersa. Or just Emery if you’re not into all that pomp.

2) What motivates him/her?

Emery’s family has been murdered and his kingdom stolen from him. It’s too late to save his family, but he’s not going to let an enemy king rule Tersa, especially not when said enemy king murdered the Tersan royals.

3) What is the villain’s relationship with the main character?

They had a friendly relationship when they were younger. But the friendship becomes somewhat compromised when her parents marry her off to the son of Emery’s greatest enemy.

4) What is one thing your villain is afraid of? What is their weakness?

Emery’s weakness is his arrogance. It’s not that he isn’t a force to be reckoned with. But sometimes he overestimates just how far his charm and wit will get him. Ultimately, he’s afraid of failing and letting his family down. He takes big risks, and that might just come back to bite him.

5) What is their greatest strength?

His cunning. Emery’s wit has allowed him to evade the man who killed his family. While hiding in that man’s home.

6) Does your villain have any romantic entanglements?

He’s in like/love/lust (depending on the day) with the main character. One time he drunkenly kissed her. Another time he soberly kissed her.

7) List one random fact about your villain.

His family crest has a snake on it, which turns out to be very fitting.

Giveaway Time!

I’ll be giving away a 5 page + query critique to two lucky blog readers.

To win:

1) Follow my blog

2) In the comments, describe your character in 150 words or fewer. I will choose one submission to win a critique.

3) If you want to do a longer post and and answer the 7 questions above, include a link to your blog in the comment. I’ll try to read (and comment on) all of these, if I can. Won’t affect my choice of winner, but it might be fun.

Contests close October 31st.

If you want another chance to win, check out Erin Latimer’s blog.


Erin latimer

I was tagged by my splendtastic CP, Erin Latimer. Erin is a Wattpad superstar and a member of the vlogging team, the YA WordNerds. I can vouch for the quality of her critiques, so you should totally check her blog out!

And I am tagging Meghan Jashinsky and Jamie Adams. Your turn!

Meghan is giving away a signed PB copy of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, so make sure to check out her post!

If you want to see more of Sean Mundy’s photography, follow this link.